As you may know, the FBP family has gotten a little bit bigger in recent months. Three of our staff recently gave birth to new babies, within just days of each other! Congratulations to company dancers Ruth Whitney and Marissa Parmenter (and her husband Ty Parmenter, also an FBP dancer), and ballet mistress Leticia Guerrero.
Naturally, we couldn’t turn down the chance to get all the moms, dads, and their babies in one place for what probably goes down as the most adorable and heartwarming photo shoot we’ve ever done!
Dance is about stirring in our audience thoughtful insight. For as many seasons as we can recall, arts writer Johnette Rodriguez has been watching, thinking, and “writing in the dark” as fellow dance critic (now retired) Arlene Croce once said of the practice. Her insight is spot-on, at times picking up on aspects of the performance even the dancers themselves had hardly considered. Recently out of a job, we just couldn’t bear to let an Up Close on Hope pass without hearing from her and gaining her valuable perspective on our work.
When Mihailo (“Misha”) Djuric, artistic director of Festival Ballet Providence, made the decision in 2003 to include a program of short pieces presented in the company’s studio on Hope St., he had several goals in mind: to give audiences a chance to see dance up close; to introduce them to new and upcoming choreographers; to give new dancers an opportunity to shine in a classical dance segment; and to give company members a venue to present original work. Thus, the Up Close on Hope series was born, with a fall and spring program extending over four weekends. The current fall program continues November 14, 15 and 21.
In this program, Djuric has featured a new-to-FBP choreographer, Ilya Kozadayev; two Boston-based choreographers who’ve created pieces for Up Close since the beginning and gone on to do full-length dance concerts: Gianni Di Marco and Viktor Plotnikov; an impressive four-movement piece by company apprentice Louisa Chapman; and one by company member Ty Parmenter.
Sandwiched among the seven contemporary pieces are two from the classical repertoire: the “Peasant pas de deux” from Giselle (choreography by Marius Petipa after Jules Perrot), and the “Seventh Waltz” from Les Sylphides (choreography by Mikhail Fokin). The former has folk elements throughout, including little hops and hands on hips. And, as with any pas de deux, there are alternating solos by the male and female dancers, showing off their jetés and their pirouettes.
The waltz, set to Chopin, is as romantic as can be, with veteran FBP soloist Vilia Putrius in a long white tutu, looking like a puffy cloud as she perches on the shoulder of partner Mindaugas Bauzys, also a long-time FBP soloist and now on staff as the ballet master. Their flowing waltz steps are punctuated by lovely arabesques and gentle turns.
In stark contrast, Putrius and Bauzys present one of Kozadayev’s two premieres, Moonlight, as a couple filled with pain and sorrow, set to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, itself a dark and brooding piece. Hunched shoulders, sharply angled arms, Putrius burying her face in Bauzys chest for a moment, and he lifting her awkwardly bent body with one arm—all convey a sense of anguish and inconsolable loss.
The other heart-wrenching piece is DiMarco’s premiere of Voices in Your Head, a trio that portrays Alex Lantz with two women (Louisa Chapman and Emily Loscocco) pulling at his thoughts and feelings, driving him to rub and shake his head to rid himself of them. But, like the ancient Harpies, they circle him, sit on top of him on the floor, whisper in his ear, taunting and tormenting him. All three dancers are mesmerizing.
Kozadayev’s second piece, Molto Expressivo, is precisely that: two couples clasp and unclasp each other, as the male dancers lift and catch their female partners with her knees thrown around his torso or her body held straight in front but upside down. Arms are sometimes flourished in waves, with “much expression,” and sometimes just stretched up exuberantly. It’s a fluid and captivating work.
Plotnikov’s premiere, with original music commissioned from Sonya Belousova, is called Surrogate, and is embellished with the modern touches this choreographer likes to draw on—a bit of mime here, a touch of hip-hip there. The women may have pink tutus and point shoes, but they have sheer black leotards under the pink and their feet splay out flat when lifted by a male dancer. They are sometimes held up by a hank of hair or dragged by one foot, adding to the marionette effect. Like an abstract video, the six dancers create shifting scenes and poses, smashing clichés with every step and stance.
Parmenter uses an unusual audio from the ’47 film Fear in the Night for a long stretch of his Glauben Sie Mir (Believe Me!). The three dancers (Alan Alberto, Vincent Brewer and Tegan Rich) convey appropriate suspense and fear (hand clasped over another’s eyes, running in large arcs) and a desperate sense of being inside a dream not of their own making.
Chapman’s four-part dance, The Elements, is broken into Earth, Water, Fire and Air. The first, with nine dancers, is appropriately “grounded,” with the sound of pacing feet and an occasional pause for a hug or a greeting with another of the humans passing by. The second is a sensual evocation of water, with undulations of arms and torsos, and with bodies (Putrius and Alan Alberto) gliding over one another.
The third has Parmenter and Harunaga Yamakawa with flickering fingers, stretching arms and vertical jumps, in flame-like energy. The fourth has five dancers in a V-formation, arms held wing-like, tipping from side to side, riding the air currents, as migrating geese or ducks will do. At times their shoulders round and their hands flutter, as they change direction, or they open their arms wide and dip down. This dance is such fun to watch, as the bird-like dancers re-create so many different flight movements—we seem to feel the Air beneath their wings.
Last, but certainly not least, Djuric has reprised an alluring duo of his own, set to Schubert, called Tender Delusions. Alex Lantz is an expressive dancer, and he partners well with Kirsten Evans, as the two recreate a relationship that tugs and tears, as they try to put it back together. Djuric’s sculptural sense is stunning: when Lantz lifts Evans while they’re both on their knees; when he carries her as her legs bicycle in air or sets her down, as her legs go into a split on the floor.
Djuric’s piece, as many throughout this program, is emotional tension made visual in dance. And Festival Ballet Providence’s Up Close on Hope series never disappoints on that score.
My inspiration for The Elements came from observing and interacting with nature. I saw the wind catch leaves on a tree during a walk and saw ripples echo from my hand as I swam in a river this summer. I began to crave capturing these moments in movement. I also wanted to challenge the dancers. We are always dancing through air but I asked them to examine, what it would feel like to dance through water or through smoke? The greatest challenge has been that honesty in the choreography and dancing for each element.
Up Close On Hope is a great performance to have such a piece in. The mixed program allowed me to approach each element differently. Someone may like one section but not another. The close proximity of the audience also allows a greater participation in the performance. I hope it encourages them to make greater connections between the pieces and their own experiences.
Louisa Chapman’s “The Elements” first premiered this summer at the Birkshire Choreography Project. See the FBP company premiere at Up Close on Hope, Nov. 1 – 21.